“The most significant things we do are not stand-alone. They are the sum of the small choices we make every day.”– James Clear, Atomic Habits
Much of our life runs on autopilot, with habits dictating many of the things we do from the moment we get out of bed in the morning till the moment we go to bed. Pay attention tomorrow morning and I suspect you will follow a set routine: you put your clothes on in a particular order, tie the same shoe first, eat the same breakfast, and follow a certain route to work.
Likewise, how in or out of shape you are is a result of your current habits.
If you want to improve your health and fitness, it’s about replacing your existing habits with more helpful ones which work better for your current goals.
It sounds obvious, but a habit can occur only if you are capable of doing it. So, maybe “skills” is a better description of what we’re going to work on. Many habits look easy on paper but the skill of actually doing them is hard.
Take “Eat enough protein” – probably the most important of the nutrition habits to master, especially from a weight loss point of view – which might involve eating 30-40g of protein at each of four meals every single day. That requires you to develop the skills of meal planning, food preparation and time management before you have any chance of achieving it every day.
So, while diet is the key to weight loss (if that is your goal), it is much more likely you’ll be successful with an activity-based habit first and that’s why we start with the Lifestyle Standards, and getting enough daily steps in particular.
The standards are borrowed from Strength Matters’ concept of “Walk, Water, Sleep”. Interestingly, their clients lost an average of 11 pounds in 60 days on this system without any dietary interventions. That may appear to contradict my statement that diet is far more effective than exercise for weight loss. However, most people find their diet improves automatically as they focus on improving other lifestyle factors. So, it’s not the activity producing the weight loss per se; rather, it acts as a catalyst for other changes.
It should also be noted that exercise is more beneficial to health and longevity than weight loss, and part of my job is to encourage you to do things that are good for you as well as the things you want to do!
Finally, don’t try to rush the process. A complete overhaul of your existing lifestyle where you try to change everything at once rarely works. It’s just too many new habits to master at one time. So, resist the temptation to skip down the list of links below and jump ahead to the things you think you should be working on.
Start with the Putton Mill Level 1 Standards. If you are already achieving these standards, then move on to the Level 2 standards. Only when you are hitting them consistently (i.e. 95% of the time) should you move on to the following nutrition skills.
Lifestyle Standards – Walk, Water, Sleep
The Nutrition Habits
The first step is to work out a starting point for how much you should eat every day by calculating your calorie and macronutrient requirements. Then, you should rotate through the four “Sequence 1” habits, focusing on one per week until you are completely comfortable with them. This could take several months; there is no hurry! Next, repeat the process with the “Sequence 2” habits. Note: even after you have moved on to Sequence 2, you will almost certainly have to revisit the Sequence 1 habits again at some point.
How Much Should You Eat?
Calculate Your Calorie And Macro Requirements
Keep And Review A Food Journal
Eat Enough Protein
Eat Enough Healthy Fats
Eat Enough Smart Carbs
Eat Until Satisfied
Eat Mostly Whole Foods